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5G – to B, or not to B – that’s the burning question.

Everyone is talking about the newest mobile telephone network that they hope is coming in 2019, the follow-up of the LTE or 4G network, the fourth generation of technology, that’s not surprisingly called . . . 5G, the fifth generation.

So, what is it that we know and don’t know about 5G? Firstly, two things make this next evolution of technology different from all the earlier steps, it is way more complicated and expensive than before and for the first time it may be that we, as the consumer, might not actually want it. This is causing some concern for a lot of people but they hope to quickly convince us that it will be great, for everyone, and that we need it now!

The usual media, industry and political push with newer, faster, more and better data transmission and more connectivity is not really exciting us as much this time around. That’s because this is an industry driven revolution focused on the Internet of Things applications, automation, robots, self-driving cars and drones. Not the most exciting for most of us. It’s normally supposed to be about telephones and people to people communication isn’t it? But the move from 4G to 5G, and the billions of euro’s this is going to cost, is not going to see any real change in telephone connectivity possibilities. It’s for all the machines.

That brings us to the real concern of those who have been following this so far, do we want the super-computers, artificial intelligence (AI), robots and IoT (Internet of Things) to be actually running our world? Are we ready to let the Cloud take over from us humans? And of course, the aspect that is being hidden the most by the proponents of this new step, and their backers, is it SAFE? What are the long-term effects on us! This is a technology that will literally be placed on every street corner of every city in the world.

These are the burning questions that we need answers to. And although there is a lot of information floating in hyper-space what is true and what not, what can we believe. Where are we at the moment. Do we need to be worried? Keep reading and we will go a bit deeper in and endeavor to bring a bit more clarity. I will try to keep it as basic as possible and will go further with the real tech aspects in future blogs. The 5Key questions about 5Gee . . .

Question 1, what is the 5G technology and is it already here?

Up until the end of 2017 there wasn’t even any true definition of what the new technology would look like or how it would work, but that it had come as soon as possible. The existing systems were too slow and the airwaves too crowded. Now at the end of 2018 there are some broad definitions and the industry is very busy working it all out. The answer, so far, is that it will be a system of small-cell, ultra-high frequency or extremely-high frequency transmitters (1GHz to 100GHz) in a massive deployment throughout the land (in the Netherlands up to 700,000 new transmitters). There are no working networks yet and virtually no devices able to use 5G. There are no 5G telephones and the first may only become available in 2019 (Samsung and Apple are a long way behind some of the other producers and may not even have new telephones able to use this technology until 2020). The first basic trials with a handful of transmitters are underway but are very simple basic tests of equipment that may not even become full-fledged networks.

Question 2, what will it bring?

Definitely much higher speeds of data transfer, much larger data packages, massively more connectivity (the number of gadgets and connected devices) and quite importantly the first real low latency network (a network with virtually no delays in the system, allowing real time responses – great for the gamers, drone operators and essential for self-driving cars). Each small-cell (transmitter) will have up to 28 antennas allowing direct beaming, meaning the transmitter will aim directly at the connecting device and not just aiming everywhere and hoping to find you. Each cell will have to have powerful data management systems (super-computers) and the complete system will have to have massive computer power. Very high costs and complicated, fragile infrastructure.

Question 3, will it work?

A complete coverage of the country with ultra-high frequency, millimeter wave, electro-magnetic radiation. This will be new to all living things, including us. These frequencies have been used for limited communication applications (radar) and are therefore still available whereas the lower high-frequency ranges are overfull. But these ultra-high frequencies have a large number of problems leading to the massive deployment of small-cells, as these frequencies do not travel as far and are much more easily blocked by simple things such as buildings, trees, birds, people and rain. This all has to be solved by super-advanced technology that to some degree doesn’t even exist yet. It will probably take the next few years and a lot of money to get it all working. First of all we even see political pressure going onto the Ministry of Defense to give up some of it’s existing radar network as these are working in a much desired range of frequencies for the early deployment of 5G.

Question 4, is it safe?

Normally this is not even asked. We are always led to believe that, even with the high-speed deployment of modern technology, that it has all been adequately tested. That it is safely under the limits set by our government. However, this time there is not just a first glimmer of concern there is a building flood of information, research and direct action by many people including scientists, doctors and ordinary people to say, ‘maybe we are going too far this time’. Is this justified? Yes, it is. Not just because of the mounting evidence but mostly because the 5G network will be an all-invasive technology, reaching every corner of our country, our society and our world. It is not proven technology, it is still being invented as you read this, and so it has also not been tested. It will also not be tested for its safety to humans or anything living, that will cost too much money and too much time. Our businesses and industry apparently desperately need this advance in technology, now!

Question 5, is it necessary?

The 4G network has been available for not much more than 2 years in most countries of the world, and a few countries or areas are still waiting for 4G coverage. The 4G network gives excellent speed and data transfer for virtually everything we need in a modern technological world. What it can’t do is still being discovered and mostly solved within the 4G technology itself, there is still a lot we can do here. It is actually still a new and evolving technique. So what’s the hurry to get to 5G, to take ourselves into the world of ultra-high frequency millimeter-wave technology? A large, and growing group is really baffled by the crazy reasons given for 5G. Do we already want to live in a world of artificial intelligence, automation, robots, workerless factories, farms and offices, and self-driving cars, trucks buses and shipping? Do you already want to live in a fully computerized house with robot delivery vans or drones bringing everything to your feet? And of course much of the real work that a new 5G network is being proposed to do can be significantly cheaper and safely done using normal copper cables and fiber-optic cables, using much less energy and much less of a security problem as well.

Let’s wake up and start to take this last drive to push ultra-high technology onto us and our world as a serious assault. It is our choice and not that of a profit driven industry and also not a decision for our politicians to make, it is our last chance to get it right. After this it will be computers, artificial intelligence (algorithms), the cloud and robots making the decisions, not us. Then it will be too late. This is a social, economic and philosophical discussion not a technological or scientific discussion. Are you ready to get involved?

Come along to the open discussion on 5G and ElectroSmog by the Hart Cirkel in Egmond-Binnen on the 2nd of February 2019.

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